Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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World War I conjures up many images - the grime of newly industrialized war, the birth of chemical weapons, and the rise of the shell-shocked soldier, to name just a few - but none is as devastating as the start of trench warfare. This new approach to the art of war multiplied casualties and helped WWI earn its reputation as the "war to end all wars."
It's strange, then, to find myself liking the slightly cartoonish approach taken to this grisly subject by Trenches Generals. Developer Thunder Game Works has created a game that is an odd pastiche of styles. It's not realistic, but the use of a muted, barbed wire-littered terrain is in stark contrast to the exaggerated cartoon soldiers that players command. I've never given a single thought to the loss of a defense tower in, say, Fieldrunners, but in Trenches Generals there is a palpable sense of loss when soldiers fall.
Gameplay in Trenches Generals is also a hybrid of styles, but it best resembles a tower defense game. Tired of TD games? Don't be discouraged from playing Trenches. It's unique enough to make it seem fresh to even a TD veteran. Unlike Fieldrunners, the area for battle is surprisingly linear. Players mass their troops on the left-hand side of the screen, while the enemy masses on the right. The goal, simply enough, is to move armies to the opponent's headquarters and destroy it.
As is the tradition with tower defense games, units have multiple upgrades. One of the nicer touches in Trenches Generals is that soldiers level up automatically based upon their lifespan - the longer they live, the higher their rank and the more damage they do. It keeps the game from becoming micromanagement meltdown and is a strong design choice. All units are realistic to the time period - sniper units, mortar units, etc - so the theme remains consistent throughout (except for the obligatory "zombie horde" levels). Between rounds players can purchase perks to help survive the upcoming slaughter. It's all well -executed, and surprisingly addictive.
Multiplayer is only local head-to-head at the moment, which is a shame. A game like this could really benefit from online multiplayer, so perhaps it will show up in a later update. Also, be aware that even the devs acknowledge Trenches Generals is a memory and resource hog. It can become laggy at times, and controls can sometimes not be as responsive as they could be.
Minor quibbles aside, Trenches Generals is an engaging, fresh take on the stale tower defense genre. While it is a far cry from a true wargame or a simulation, it has enough atmosphere to connect players to the time period and the game itself - and I STILL don't like to see my little soldiers die.